November 9, 2023 HART’S TURKEY FARM
View all of our photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/nSmji2dD1wRYiaBR6
Charyl Reardon, Board Chair
Today, we get together to reflect on our achievements over the past year and to highlight an exciting course for the future. This gathering is a testament to the organization’s commitment to support the tourism businesses and guests of New Hampshire, our growth, and collaboration.
Throughout the year, our team of volunteers and staff have demonstrated dedication and innovation, which has allowed us to overcome challenges and seize numerous opportunities.
Today, we celebrate your collective efforts and the milestones you have reached.
Throughout the rest of this annual meeting Michelle, Sue, Kelly, and Ginks will
- Go over the financial stability of the organization.
- Review the accomplishments of the past year.
- Share the vision and strategic direction for the coming years.
- Discuss Fundraising and Silent Auction projects.
As we navigate an ever-evolving landscape, it’s important that we remain adaptable, innovative, and committed to our shared goals. Together, we can continue to drive our organization forward and inspire the people we meet.
On behalf of the Board, I want to express our deepest gratitude to each of you for your dedication and commitment to excellence. Our success is the collective achievement of all of you and Kelly’s passionate leadership.
Michelle Demirjian, Chief Financial Officer
Good morning GSAs. As always, it is nice to see your smiling faces. I hope that you have all had a fantastic year and that you have fun plans to celebrate the upcoming holidays. I also hope you have all had fun bidding on the online Auction items…if not, there’s still time to bid on some amazing NH items…that 2 hour mushroom foraging walk sure is popular…so go ahead and bid items up..overbids are highly encouraged and are tax deductible. 😊
Thank you to our key partners, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and the State of New Hampshire. We value our long-term, evolving relationship with you. Thank you to the many people who believe in the importance of our organization and made donations to Granite State Ambassadors this past year. Those donations make an impactful difference to our bottom line.
To recap our finances, in 2022, we budgeted a $20,000 net loss and finished the year with a $13,000 net loss. We were able to reduce our loss due to strategic decisions that enhanced the strength of our financial base.
For 2023, the board approved a budget that has us losing $17,000. Through October, we have significantly closed the gap through additional revenue sources and donations along with reductions in expenses. We are hopeful that we will close the rest of the gap by the end of the year and report a breakeven year.
While this may sound like the financial stability of our organization is in question—let me assure you that is not the case. Going into the pandemic, our financial base was the strongest in the history of Granite State Ambassadors. As a reminder, we received $35,000 in Grant and PPP money. Because of this funding, we were able to maintain a large portion of the surplus we had been building and get us through these past couple of post-Covid, re-building years. In addition, Kelly and the Board have worked strategically with our industry partners, and Special Events and managed services partners resulting in new revenue sources and increases in our current revenue streams. Rest assured, Granite State Ambassadors is in great financial health due to strong partnerships, visionary leadership, generous donors, and amazing volunteers.
Enjoy this celebratory day–and now I introduce our Treasurer, Sue Geyer who will expand upon our financial stability.
Sue Geyer, Treasurer
It is so wonderful to see everyone, all the newer GSAs along with the seasoned ones. Love this group! Thank you, Michelle!
I believe our goal as an organization, my take on our mission, is to provide our guests, our communities, our tourism friends, and our state & airport the best possible services & experiences we can give (along with lots of smiles). The key to achieving that goal is to continue to gather an amazing group of volunteers and provide them the best training, ongoing educational programs, encouragement, support, and tools we possibly can. Then we all stand back and watch while our volunteers make the Granite State Ambassador Organization shine! And boy do we ever!
So, to do that, we have our finances… For our expenses, I’ll put them into 3 buckets. First, the people… Kelly’s salary of course, then part time help for Admin & Event Management Support, financial services (Michelle), accounting, etc. Then there is our overhead … supplies, software, Rent, payroll, insurance, …it goes on. The last bucket is what we do directly for the volunteers…the Ambies luncheon, shirts, awards, badges, training, etc.
Our major source of revenue comes from our fantastic partners, the NH Division of Travel & Tourism Development and the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
The remaining third of our income comes from a combination of other sources. We have our member centers and special events; the Farm, Forest & Garden which we manage and then whatever else we can raise (for example the auction). Lastly but extremely vital are the generous donations from our GSAs and friends. They make the difference! Thank you so much!
How we make all of this add up has been evolving over the years. For example… we used to have 2 big events for GSAs, the Ambies & a Holiday Party which were entirely sponsored by our Tourism Friends. As the industry changed, we had to shift, putting Ambies in our budget. And now our second event, Founders Day, is self-paid by our GSAs.
It is an ongoing and challenging juggling act to maintain and grow our revenue but also find more ways to leverage the resources we have. One of those has been to get GSAs more involved. You have already seen some of that, with admin shifts at our office and GSA tour / shift captains to provide staff relief. Stay tuned, there’s more to come!
Thankfully, we have Kelly, an excellent juggler. Her ability to “juggle’ and come up with ways to achieve our objectives and produce great side benefits is amazing.
Then there is all that Kelly handles day to day. Talk about juggling, it is at times incredible what she handles. I got a glimpse when I was filling in while she was on vacation. Of course, she had the schedule cleared and folks aware so there wasn’t a lot that came up. The number of balls she keeps in the air, expertly, is very impressive.
Thank you, Kelly, for all your passion, expertise, energy, and time! You are amazing and we appreciate you so much!! And thank you to the board and all my fellow GSAs for all you do, you are the best!!
Kelly Bryer, Executive Director
With the deepest sincerity, I find it impossible to adequately express the profound admiration and appreciation I hold for each and every one of you. Over the past few years, we’ve shared a journey filled with challenges, and your unyielding generosity, kindness, extraordinary patience, and unwavering commitment have been the cornerstones of not just our survival but our thriving.
As for our recovery, Holy Cow, we did it! We are back in full force. To keep it apples to apples… from Jan – Sept in 2019, we had 311 GSAs serve 15,167 hours. The same time period Jan – Sept 2023, 312 GSAs served 17,941 hours. We now track educational hours and so far in 2023, 149 GSAs earned 1471 educational hours. When you account for this change in what we track, we are still up an additional 1303 hours from Jan-Sept 2019! We still have the entire 4th quarter to add to our totals.
This year we certified 111 new GSAs between in-person classes and the online option. We used to average 75-80 a year. Now, to talk about the enthusiasm of these new GSAs. I used to order 25-30 permanent badges a year. This year, I ordered a whopping 67!
In your respective roles, you have brought unique skills and an unparalleled dedication that has indelibly shaped the tourism industry, influencing how guests perceive the beautiful state of New Hampshire and its wonderful residents.
As you are well aware, you all hold a special place in my heart, and the board shares in the commitment to ensure the lasting presence of Granite State Ambassadors. This organization is not only a significant asset to the tourism industry but also a cherished support community of friends. Personally, during the challenging times of the pandemic, I found solace in this incredible community, much as I believe many of you did.
Sue has rightly mentioned that we operate on a very modest budget, stretching every dollar of revenue to benefit the organization, our dedicated volunteers, and the broader tourism industry. Each decision is meticulously considered to align with our culture and the spirit of Yankee frugality.
The advent of the pandemic brought about significant changes, catalyzing an evolution in our operational, training, and volunteer program models. In the coming months, we invite you to stay tuned for surveys and meetings – because this organization is truly yours, and we can’t navigate this transition without your invaluable feedback. As a glimpse into what’s on the horizon, our certification trainings will adopt a new format, offering smaller, more digestible segments of information and beginning more frequently, so your friends and family won’t have to wait six months to join the fun. Moreover, learning opportunities will be more GSA-led, giving you a greater say in the topics and your active participation. My office has moved out of my home after 21 years and into a space in Campton. I knew we had a lot of stuff, but I didn’t realize just how much until I filled 2 office rooms and a basement storage area! This new office space allows for GSAs to help with administrative tasks and I need to give a major shout-out and hearty thank you to my new office volunteers. They have been key to making our auction and this event happen this year! To avoid any confusion, our legal address will remain Michelle’s Goffstown office along with my home office address.
Exciting news on the horizon includes the development of a new website and custom-built volunteer software, aimed at simplifying your sign-up for opportunities and reporting your hours.
In conclusion, your service is a cherished gift, and our gratitude knows no bounds. Your spirit of altruism and volunteerism shines brilliantly, casting a warm and inviting light on the path ahead. Together, we look forward to a brighter future for Granite State Ambassadors.
Ginks Leiby, Vice Chair – Development Committee Chair
Dear Fellow Volunteers,
Granite State Ambassadors, as an organization is at a point where we must do more fundraising and development in order to meet our current and future fiscal and expansion needs. Kelly Bryer is doing a fantastic job and we need to do more as an organization to support her and other part-time hired staff as they work magic for us.
Our budget is currently strong and in order to keep it that way, the Board of Directors with Kelly’s coaching and expertise have agreed to start a Fundraising and Development Committee. The fundraising piece will help us expand during the day to day work annually. The Development piece will help sustain us for the long-term.
Look for more information through email about a committee start date to plan for 2024.
And last, don’t forget, our annual fundraising “Experience NH” fundraiser is ending tomorrow at 6:00 pm. There is still a lot of great stuff available so be sure to check it out.
Thank you and take care.
We are so grateful for our key partners, who have been standing with us since our inception in 1996, the NH Division of Travel & Tourism Development and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Lori Harnois from Travel and Tourism, and Tom Malafronte from the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport said many, many kind words of support and gratitude for all our GSA volunteers do for the state.
As a special thank you for our part in the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport’s recent #1 Domestic Airport by Travel & Leisure, they are giving all active MHT GSAs a free commemorative uniform shirt. If you are an MHT volunteer, fill out the form at https://www.surveyhero.com/c/mht-shirt to get yours delivered to the MHT info booth.
INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIP AWARD – JOANNE BLANCHETTE
NH Granite State Ambassadors rely on our Industry Partners to succeed year after year. This award recognizes a company or individual who works in the state’s Travel and Tourism industry, and who helps promote all the best of New Hampshire.
This person works directly with visitors to NH providing them with a wide variety of information to make their NH experience a great one. With her pleasant demeanor, she easily engages visitors in conversations, both adults and their children, too. No matter which State of NH Welcome Center she covers, she does it well.
For being a great representative for the State of NH in her work at the Hooksett North and Canterbury State Welcome Centers, we award Joanne Blanchette the Industry Partnership Merit Award
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – KATHY KLEIN
This award is given to recognize a new GSA who has shown outstanding skills and initiative in their volunteer role, and who has already contributed in significant ways to the organization.
As a new GSA, this volunteer got right into the Airport booth routine without hesitation. She volunteered to do some background tasks, including calling all the local hotels to get up to date vacancy information. That action saved other GSAs lots of research time and helped our traveling visitors get to their destinations more quickly. She also took the initiative to organize a Lake Sunapee Cruise with her entire GSA class, using the certificates they had received. It was the first of many excursions for that group.
It’s with pleasure and appreciation, we give the Rookie of the Year Merit Award to Kathy Klein.
ROCK SOLID MERIT AWARD – SANDRA CHANDONNET
This year we recognize a stand-out steadfast, loyal and true GSA who over a period of time has been committed and solid as granite while volunteering for Granite State Ambassadors.
This GSA has volunteered over 3,000 hours since becoming a GSA in 2014. Those hours include a wide variety of events and several different welcome center sites including the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce’s Capital Region Visitor Center and the Millyard Museum in Manchester. She also has participated in many education and social events. No matter where she volunteers, she always does it with a friendly greeting for NH visitors or other GSA friends.
We’re happy to give the Rock Solid Merit Award, with many thanks, to Sandra Chandonnet.
DYNAMIC DUO AWARD – BRIAN SMITH & JONATHAN KING
The Granite State Ambassador Organization continues to grow particularly as GSAs invite friends and family to join them as volunteers. Whether they volunteer together, or not, they prove to be very generous with their time because of their shared enthusiasm for the organization. Such Dynamic Duos are a powerful asset in whatever volunteering they do as GSAs.
One of these GSAs brought the second GSA into the organization, and both were very active immediately after their trainings. They volunteer at many, many, many events, working long hours, often on multiple days in a row, often at hard-to-fill times, and taking care of whatever comes up. Their love for volunteering shows in their interactions with the public and fellow GSAs.
With thanks for all their volunteering, particularly their many hours spent at the Big E, we award the Dynamic Duo Merit Award to Brian Smith and Jonathan King.
TOP ANNUAL HOURS
Pat Crippen 862
Tim Adams 722
Karen Green 678
Sandra Chandonnet 587
Pat Storm 515
Leigh Polish 508
Nick Wallner 500
- Barbara Bailey
- Norma Bursaw
- Marie Farmer
- Ellyn Fitzpatrick
- Michael Gavrish
- Marie Hall
- David Hickey
- Mia Jacobson
- Bill Judd
- Joan Katz
- Sally Kelly
- Jon King
- Kathy Klein
- Jane Labbe
- Joan Mcdonald
- Cathy McIntyre
- Colleen Mousseau
- Julie Nazaka
- Jeannine Robbins-Murphy
- Elizabeth Santos
- Julie Strong
- Harry Vogt
- Debbie Wyman
- Janice Collins
- Ellyn Fitzpatrick
- Joan Gonser
- Bobbie Goodrich
- Linda Kahn
- Ed Kotowski
- Jo Ann Maynard
- Rich Pelletier
- Ashlee Rowley
- Brian Smith
- Joanne Walsh
- Jane Washburn
- Matt Blanchard
- Linda Duquette
- Pat Kelly
- Jeanne Lamarre
- Mark Lamarre
- Vangie Christon
- Pat Crippen
- Joe Distefano
- Vicki Hentschel
- Jim Narkiewicz
- Bruce Flegal
- Sandra Chadonnet
- Sue Geyer
- Karen Green
- Jean McGiffin
- Joe Reisert
- Nick Wallner
- Tim Adams
GSA EMERITUS – Peter A Morgan
Merrium Webster defines emeritus as: a person retired from professional life but permitted to retain as an honorary title the rank of the last office held. Peter Morgan, one of our three co-founders, in good retirement fashion, is in warmer climes today and unable to be with us. But Judi and I are here to honor Peter and bestow the honor of emeritus status.
New Hampshire Granite State Ambassadors have been welcoming the World to New Hampshire since 1996, but none of what we have done would have happened without Peter. It was Peter’s problem solving, creative, out-of-the-box thinking that connected Manchester volunteer extraordinaire (me) with a Hospitality and Tourism Educator (Bill) to, in classic and frugal Granite State style do what city convention bureaus, destination marketing associations, and state tourism agencies do with big budgets funded by (dare I say the word) rooms, meals and sales taxes.
Peter was at the time the owner-operator of the Highlander Inn & Conference Center and a successful private airport parking facility, businesses he ran for 25 years. Peter is a graduate of the US Naval Academy, The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and a long-time entrepreneur and real estate investor. Peter’s business acumen and optimism, coupled with Bill’s hospitality management, training and higher education experience,
…and Judi’s “Alway’s Sunny in New Hampshire” passion, organization, and making volunteering as an ambassador a grand adventure…gave birth and has made this unusual award-winning organization what it is today. While the three of us are quite different, we bring complimentary skills and temperament that while our professional roles have shifted over the years, we have shared in parenting this organization from birth, through uncertain growing years, to today, 27 years of collaborationPeter’s work shaping our mission of meeting and exceeding the informational needs of guests and residents of the State of New Hampshire; our core-values of volunteerism, participation, and cooperation through citizen responsibility and care for our living landscape, means that his and Granite State Ambassador’s legacy is the believe that New Hampshire will only be a good place to visit if it continues to be a good place to live.
It is our pleasure to bestow emeritus status on our co-founder: Peter A. Morgan.
Judi Window It’s Always Sunny in NH Award – Mary-Helen McGrath
The recipient of the Judi Window “It’s Always Sunny in NH” award not only has a sunny personality but puts the motto “It’s Always Sunny in NH” into practice while volunteering. This GSA handles tough situations and rainy days with poise and a positive outlook, and leaves guests and fellow GSAs feeling welcomed and supported.
In the nomination for this person, this GSA was described as the sunniest person the writer knows. She has brightened the spirits of many people with her positive energy, and willingness to do whatever she can in her volunteer role and is warm and friendly to NH visitors and GSAs. She absolutely loves being a GSA and her enthusiasm comes through whenever she volunteers. She has taken other GSAs under her wing to make them feel comfortable volunteering. At the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, she has gone out of her way to help a traveler who may need additional assistance, and travelers have made a point of commending her for her actions. She has been a GSA since 2017 and volunteers at the Airport, the State House, special events and the Big E.
For her consistently positive attitude towards visitors and GSAs, and for being ‘serious sunshine’, the Judi Window – It’s Always Sunny in New Hampshire Award is given to Mary-Helen McGrath.
Service Award – Leigh Polish
The Service award is given to the GSA that serves the GSA program by volunteering their time with enthusiasm. They are someone who shares their training expertise with others, while still continuing to learn about the state of New Hampshire through GSA special events, tours, and specialized trainings.
This GSA volunteers at many events, often for many hours, but is often the first one to say, ‘just call if you need me.’ Her enthusiasm is matched by her flexibility as a GSA, gladly accepting any modifications that are often needed in scheduling volunteers. She continues to learn about NH and by last year had visited all 275 NH State Historical markers then in existence. She often volunteers multiple days per week at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport where she is known for handing out toy airplanes to children, much to their delight, and appreciation of their parents. At the airport, she’s willing to work in the booth, a walk-about, on the secure side of the airport or help with organizational tasks. She became a GSA in 2019 and has over 1400 hours.
For her willingness to volunteer wherever she is needed and her expertise while doing it, we award the 2023 Service Award to Leigh Polish.
Hospitality from the Heart Award – Sarah Brown
This GSA is often cited for her incredible knowledge of things to see and do in New Hampshire. Her suggestions have enriched many visitors’ stays and have helped GSAs learn new things, too. She is a quiet presence in any volunteer situation, and she tends to do what is needed, without anyone asking. Her GSA activities go beyond volunteering at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, State House and events. Since becoming a GSA in 2011, she has also been very involved in the Social Committee making arrangements for gatherings and has also attended many educational opportunities. , In 2020, she also won a GSA Merit Award for the many blogs she wrote during a time when GSAs were not seeing as much of each other, and appreciated that virtual contact.
For providing such outstanding service and hospitality to whomever she meets, and always doing it with kindness and caring, this year’s Hospitality from the Heart Award is given to Sarah Brown.
Gretchen Ziegler, Granite State Tourism Champion Award – Bob Spoerl
The Gretchen Ziegler, Granite State Tourism Champion Award is given to the GSA who champions and promotes the GSA organization to other people and outside organizations, helping to make it an integral part of tourism and volunteerism in New Hampshire. The GSA’s dedication to this goal is accomplished by outreach efforts to other organizations, recruiting and encouraging new GSAs, while always considering tourism advocacy.
This person was known far and wide in the NH Travel and Tourism Industry before becoming a Granite State Ambassador in 2007. With his wealth of NH knowledge and contacts, he has been a wonderful friend and champion of our organization. Any GSA who has volunteered at the Big E or the NH Farm and Forest Expo is likely to have met him and benefitted from his experience. There seems to be no question he cannot answer, no matter what the situation. He is invaluable at the Big E as he serves 65 to 90 hours during the event every year in the Travel and Tourism booth, and often works the night shifts when the Manager is usually alone. He literally does a lot of heavy lifting, too, during set up and tear down at the end of the fair.
For being an incredible advocate for all NH tourism and for his help in making NH Granite State Ambassadors an integral part of that tourism, we are very happy to give this year’s Gretchen Ziegler Granite State Champion Award to Bob Spoerl, with many thanks.
GSA of the Year 2023 – Pat Storm
This award is given to a GSA extraordinaire who provides outstanding service to New Hampshire’s Tourism Industry. The GSA of the Year often goes above and beyond to assist NHGSA with its mission and programs. This GSA is making a difference by volunteering at centers and a variety of events, providing guests with a unique experience, helping to train and mentor other GSAs, and doing so with endless spirit and enthusiasm.
This GSA never forgets she is part of a great organization, and she shares her love and understanding of GSA values with guests, friends, and other GSAs. Her kindness and generosity is always done quietly, and she is always quick to offer praise to others, making her a great mentor for newer GSAs. She has a wonderful way with all NH visitors, and is extremely knowledgeable and helpful whether at the State House or Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Centers are extremely grateful for her many hours of volunteering, her willingness to do any task and her constant search to learn more about the state. When she greets visitors to the State House, she does so with a genuine welcome and smile, and engages them in conversation that puts them immediately at ease in the austere environment of the Capitol building. She became a GSA in 2018 and has volunteered over 1700 hours.
In recognition of her unfaltering support of NH Granite State Ambassadors, and her outstanding work as a GSA volunteer, we are proud to give this year’s Ambassador of the Year award to Pat Storm.
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS!!